To be a champion, compete; to be a great champion, compete with the best; but to be the greatest champion, compete with yourself. So goes the saying. Two greatest champions have emerged thus; one is the Mahindra Thar and the other the Meteor.
‘Feeling excited’ is a common term we see on social media these days. That precisely was the feeling after test riding the Meteor. It took on its predecessor Thunderbird and proved its mettle.
The key attraction of the Meteor can be summarized in just one point. Can't wait to know that? Just join the ride from Kochi to Malayattoor via Athirappally to know that.
What is the recurring complaint of Royal Enfield bikes, save the Interceptor? In a lighter vein, people say that if you need to check the mirror, you need to engage the clutch on an Enfield bike. That is when the engine vibration is not felt on the handlebar and the mirror does not shake. This issue is found in all the Bullets. But you can exclude the Meteor from this pack. It's a smooth bike; no vibration is felt on the handle and that is one of the first important impression. And this is the key point that sets it apart from other Royal Enfield bikes.
When compared to the Thunderbird X350's tyres (19-inch in front and 18-inch in the rear), the Meteor has 19-inch tyre in front and 17-inch tyre in the rear. This change has increased ride stability and comfort a lot. The height of the back seat has been lowered, hence comfortable and accessible for most. During the ride from Ernakulam to Chalakkudy, we rode on the confidence provided by these wider tyres.
The Chalakkudy-Athirappally route is full of twisties and the photographer set some conditions - there are places where the sun plays hide and seek on the way, which would be the best to click photos of the Meteor. And we needed to rush to reach those spots. Zipped through the twisties with the pillion in place to reach the spot where the first photo was clicked. Nowhere did the Meteor lose its stability. And that was due to the new twin-tube spine frame; it is lightweight but provides great stability. Though there was no need to brake hard, the Meteor made it clear that the dual-channel ABS ensures that the bike doesn't skid or slip. The disc brakes are bigger than the Thunderbird and offer good bite.
The seat is split and wide; it is spacious for the rider. The low-set seat could also be customised. The back seat is par for the course. The contrast stitching on the seat gives the Meteor a premium look. The bike also features a large windscreen, which could be helpful during long journeys. The rear mudguard is large. Similar to cruise bikes available in international markets, the number plate looks as if it hangs from the edge of the fender. The tail lamp and indicators are truly retro. The LED pilot lamp in the shape of an incomplete circle will help the Meteor make its presence felt anywhere.
The fittingly retro navigation system, Tripper, displays navigation info on the digital display on the right of the meter console. You need to download the Royal Enfield app and pair it with Bluetooth. If the battery optimisation if on in the mobile phone, the battery saving mode will be on and won't connect with the bike. You also need to activate location on your phone.
The navigation was particularly helpful in the rural stretch from Ezhattumugham to Malayattoor. Otherwise, we would have had to stop and check the navigation on the phone, killing the joy of the ride. The Tripper navigation is powered by Google Maps. The USB charging port is below the handlebar. Those who have travelled to the Himalayas and other similar places will know the importance of the charging port. The start button too has changed, from the old switch mode, the Meteor now gets a rotary switch. Lights also get a rotary switch. The foot pegs have rubber cushioning. The only negative that could be pointed out is the flimsy way the meters have been fixed. A touch is enough to know how fragile they are.
There were two more bikes during the test ride - an Interceptor and a Classic. Among the three, the Meteor has a better riding position with an upright stance. Pillion comfort is also good with the backrest ensuring enough support. The wider wheelbase also plays an important role in delivering better ride comfort. The seat height of the Meteor is 765 mm, while that of the Classic is 800 mm and Jawa 42 765 mm. The seat height is well suited for riders of all heights.
The Meteor 350 is powered by an all-new J-series engine. It looks very similar to that of the Interceptor. The new engine is more powerful than the previous one though the torque is slightly lesser than that of the Thunderbird. Cruiser bikes are not meant for outright performance but supposed to offer a super smooth ride, which the Meteor does. However, once it hits three-digit speed, there is a little hesitation to pick up further speed.
Low-end torque is strong and helps in pottering around without problems. City riding does not require partial engaging of the clutch. The five-speed gearbox is smooth. Oil change intervals are now up to 10,000 km. The fuel tank has a capacity of 15 litres with low fuel warning at 5 litres. 'Trip F' comes up when the fuel tank capacity hits 5 litres and this will run up to 200 km. The Meteor also has a side stand indicator with engine inhibitor.
The Meteor is a super cruiser that can be easily handled by riders of any height, cornered effortlessly, is vibration-free, suits both short and long journeys and is stable and planted even at high speeds. You also get options to customise even the seat and exhaust pipe. Go for it.